It was raining at our house in Winter Springs. Over on the coast, it was dry, but threatening. The clouds were just awesome – I even spotted some that looked like Mammatus clouds.
Next time I’ll leave a bit earlier – the light was a little dim for bird photography but I did see a few. I’m usually there in the morning and they behave differently in the evening. It was interesting to watch them going home in formation to roost for the night and to spot groups perched in trees and lined up along power lines.
… Well, some film failures and a small favorable film finish.
I’m a sucker for old cameras. I recently came across two that I ended up buying.
A Zorki 6 35mm film camera made in 1962 in the Soviet Union
This first one is a Soviet “Leica” clone I found in an antique store. I’d heard of them before, but never held one. It seemed to work, and since I’m a sucker – I bought it. I got it home, put in a roll of film and tried to take a few photos. The shutter is inconsistent and started running very slowly. First failure 😞. If you’re interested, there’s more info about the Zorki 6 at the Camera-wiki article at this link.
I ran across this next one at a different antique shop. It’s from Germany in the mid 1950s, and came with a clean Zeiss Sonar 50mm f/1.5 lens. I like the shutter speed range from 1 second to 1/1250 second (including T and B). The built-in selenium light meter still works too and no batteries are required. I’m always a bit leery of messing with these old cameras in the store. So I didn’t actually open it up or try to do too much investigation while there. It also seemed to be in pretty good shape and I went ahead and bought this one too. Yes I’m a sucker.
Zeiss Contax IIIa ‘color dial’ 35mm rangefinder film camera
I was able to find a manual and much more info about it online. You can read the Camerapedia article at this link. The first problem I ran into was a missing take up spool. So I tried to use a spool from a 35mm film canister, but the film wouldn’t reliably advance. Second failure 😞. More research turned up many used Zeiss Contax take up spools for sale, and I bought one from Ebay. Several days later I loaded up yet another roll of film and started clicking away again. This time the film advance worked. I finished the roll and anxiously shifted to Cinderella photography mode (see below*).
And yeah! Some of the frames were good. But many had weird light leaks. I inspected the shutter curtains carefully and saw a gap between them on one side. When the film is wound, the gap moves across the frame and if the lens cap is off, it partially exposes and ruins the film. Third failure 😞.
I can’t fix this. But I bought one more roll and this time I covered the lens each time I wound the film. And finally I was able to get some decent exposures. Favorable Finish on the fourth roll!! 😊
Here are three frames from the camera, along with comparison digital images I made at the same time. I think the camera works pretty well for 60 years old!
MK in the back yard (Film is on the left, click for larger versions) – I really like the way the Zeiss Sonar 50mm f/1.5 lens renders both the background and subject.
A Pine tree at sunset – (Film is on the left, click for larger versions) – The color rendering is different, I think digital might win this one. Different film would give different results.
In the garden (Film is on the top, click for larger versions) – The Caladium leaves were in the sun and the B&W film seems to have handled the highlights better. The subject isolation in the film version is better here too.
So, can I draw any interesting conclusions from this exercise?
Buyer beware – 50 and 60-year-old mechanical devices may not work like new.
There are no new parts for most old cameras and few people know how to work on them. Unless you’re willing to go to a lot of trouble / cost, they are what they are when you get them.
You can buy a film camera with a warranty (KEH.com does this). It would be less frustrating.
Film holds up pretty well (at least at web resolutions). I scanned these frames in with a desktop scanner and I could get better quality (at greater cost) with a professional drum scanner. Anyway, I think current digital cameras beat film hands down for convenience and quality.
The “film” look can be pretty nice. I think the film portrait of MK came out better than the digital version. This is mostly due to the Sonar lens and 35mm film size.
Film cameras can be frustrating, but they are fun to play around with. And film and old lenses definitely render scenes differently than digital cameras.
For me, film is definitely a hobby as opposed to something I would use all the time for my photography.
But film is enjoyable to play with. This Contax is usable if I’m careful and I might take it out and load it up from time to time. It reminds me of the rangefinder that my father gave me as my first camera.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
For anyone interested in architectural photography, this place is a special treat. It’s beautiful during the golden hours, but there are also many interesting viewpoints, perspectives, angles, and details you can find at other times of day.
Second floor exterior, on the west side
After sunset, the interior and exterior lighting and colors add even more drama to the scenes.
Polytech University 1 (Photo by Tom Matthews, used with permission)
The building and campus layout were designed by Dr. Santiago Calatrava Valls, A Spanish architect, structural engineer, sculptor, and painter. Besides being beautiful, it’s also very innovative – there are automatic louvers on the roof that adjust to changes in sunlight.
Parking is not difficult as there are paid parking lots available near the building. You probably won’t be allowed inside the building unless you make prior arrangements. But for exterior shots, the campus seems very photographer friendly. You can view their photography guidelines at this link. If you do go, you might consider combining this photo-op with another one that’s close by – the Airstream Ranch.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Good morning, wonderful readers! I hope you don’t mind a short post today with a few more photos from Death Valley. The place made a big impression on me. I hope to return sometime in the future.
Desert rain water – A different view of the post storm water in Death Valley. Some locations had 5 inches of rain on October 18th. The water here collected in small puddles.
Overbury Building ruins in the Rhyolite Ghost Town near Beatty, Nevada. Black and White Infrared panorama.
Death Valley Sundown – I like the sun rays and reflections from the wet mud below.
Mosaic Canyon Monochrome – Rushing water carved these canyon walls, resulting in a variety of textures to explore.
Monochromatic textures – Zabriskie Point in Death Valley is a wonderful place to photograph. The hills vary in color and with the changing light and clouds, it seems there are always new textures, shadows, and compositions to focus on (pun intended). I wanted to emphasize the textures, so I used Lightroom to convert this one to monochrome. For some reason, this was one of the first photos I made there and one of the last that I finished processing.
We’ve added even more photos from our Death Valley expedition in the albums at these links:
I’ve written about Casey Key before. Lynn and I have been visiting this little island on the Gulf coast of Florida for many years. If you’d like to read other articles about it, click on the “Casey Key” link under the “Places / Categories” menu over on the right.
When we got home this week and I reviewed the photos I made there on this trip, I was struck by how much the clouds enhance the images.
This strong storm moved through one afternoon and dropped considerable hail and rain on the area. But we also got to see the awesome cloud front pass over the beach.
This next photo includes some lovely clouds too.
And finally, here’s one last photo combining the sky and wispy sunset clouds with a sun or beach totem – not something I see everyday.
I have more photos from Casey Key as well as larger versions of the ones above in this set on Flickr.
Clear skies are often boring. Clouds and storms add interest and drama, and enhance almost any photo. Add some clouds to your compositions.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go find some clouds – and make some photos!
Lynn and I went back to Lake Louisa State Park last weekend and spent a very relaxing couple of days. It was a little chilly – our first Florida “cold” front rolled through while we were there and made us both appreciate the gas fireplace in the cabin. We didn’t see as much wildlife this time, but I did enjoy making some photos. Here’s one at sunset from just behind the cabin, looking out over Lake Dixie. I like the way the field glows in the light coming through the trees.
Grass, trees, lake, and sun
The sky was very clear after the cold front, so there were no dramatic clouds to work with. I think the low morning sun on the trees and the mist on the water look nice in black and white.
There weren’t as many flowers blooming as there were last May. But the few we did see were lovely. These were along a path just off the road.
I’ve always wanted to see Chicago. It’s my birthplace – but we moved away shortly after I was born. For some reason, I never made it back until this year. I spent a few days exploring at the end of September. My daughter had a business trip there and some spare frequent flyer points, so she gave me a ticket. Thanks, MK!!!
Chicago and Lake Michigan from the air – my first photo of the trip. It was wonderfully clear as we approached the city. You can really see how large Lake Michigan is.
Mary was busy, so I booked a hotel downtown and spent the first afternoon and evening wandering around by the lake shore. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bit of a problem. I wasn’t used to all that walking and ended up with sore feet and blisters. Which didn’t help me to walk around on the following days – but I still managed to get a few photos.
I did some research online and asked a few questions about places to photograph. One of my Flickr contacts (Brian Koprowski) lives in the area and gave me several good hints. Thanks to him, I ended up at the Adler Planetarium on the first evening. The sunset wasn’t that exciting, but I thought the city across the water at twilight was pretty.
City at twilight
I also liked this fisheye view of the Field Museum that I made on my way back to the hotel. It reminded me of the movie “Night at the Museum“, although that wasn’t filmed here.
Night at the museum – Field Museum
The next day I again walked the city (and made my feet worse). My first stop was the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), where there’s a view from the glass balcony observation deck on the 103rd floor. A wonderful place for a fisheye lens!
From the top of Chicago – Another fisheye view. This one is from the Willis Tower observation deck, 1353 feet above the city
There’s a lot to see around the city including a great deal of sculpture and artwork. And glass on the buildings creates many compositional opportunities. In this image, I waited for the photographer on the near right to get into place so I could finish my photo – I had hoped she’d move a bit more to the left, but oh well.
Flamingo – This artwork by Alexander Calder is in the Federal Plaza
Here’s another rather strange piece of street art. I couldn’t resist adding a little “digital makeup” in Photoshop.
Later that evening I ended up in Millennium Park where the Cloud Gate sculpture is located. I liked the scene – with all the people contrasting with the buildings and sculpture.
Cloud Gate (AKA “the bean”)
My son Mike drove down to meet us and we spent the next morning riding the “L” train, bicycling along the lake shore, and visiting Portillo’s Delli for a Chicago Dog. When Mary joined us that afternoon we took a boat tour on the Chicago River and ate some very good Chicago deep dish pizza for dinner. The final morning before our flight back to Orlando we toured the Museum of Science and Technology and drove by Mercy Hospital where I was born. I was only a little disappointed that there was no “Welcome Back Ed!” banner above the hospital entrance.
I enjoyed my short visit and definitely felt a kinship with this wonderful city. I want to go back again and see more. It’s so diverse that no trip as short as this could possible do it justice.
You can see larger versions of these photos and some others from our Chicago trip in this set on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Short post this week: my son Mike is visiting and I didn’t have time for a photo expedition.
He wanted to go to the University of Central Florida football game last night. Since it was a 7pm kick-off, I checked the open seats on the east side and there were still some available up in the nosebleed section. We enjoyed the first quarter while I waited to see if the Florida sky would do it’s thing. It cooperated – here’s my version of a sports photograph:
Football foreground: The sun set early on the visiting Akron Zips in the UCF football opening home game.
The Akron team was overmatched. We had a good time watching UCF win – the final score was 38 – 7.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go sneak in a sunset photo!
Lynn was out-of-town last week at the Pressing Iron & Trivet Collectors of America Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. I talked her into letting me out of my spousal support services subcontract, so I had a chance to sneak in a few days of photography while she was away. I spent the time in St. Augustine, Florida, which is “the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States”. I’ve written about it many times (see this link) and it’s one of my favorite places to photograph. Photo ops abound and include landscapes, architecture, street scenes, beaches, historic landmarks, wildlife, and much more. It’s hard to go anywhere in the area and not come back with a photo! Here are some of mine along with hints on how I made them.
There are some wonderful sunrise and sunset spots. Friends told me about Marineland Beach (thanks Kevin M. and JT) which is just a little south of St. Augustine. It’s now one of my new favorites. The coquina rocks there worked really well as foreground objects in my photos.
Long exposure sunrise – Marineland Beach, Florida
This is a single exposure, made through a Hoya ND400 filter right after sunrise. The waves were coming in around me, but I stood my tripod on one of the rocks to keep us dry. I used my lowest ISO setting (50) and even with the sun in the frame, the 8 2/3 stop ND filter gave me a 14 second exposure at f/8 . The long shutter speed makes the water surface contrast nicely with the rock texture.
One thing you’ll run into in Florida on summer mornings is condensation. It’s so humid that if you take your camera gear directly from your air-conditioned room or car out into the moist air, you can expect 15 to 30 minutes of fog before they clear. You can decrease this by not running your car’s AC on the way. You can also seal your camera and lens in a plastic bag with as much air removed as possible until it warms up. And it’s a good idea to bring along a micro-fiber cloth to remove condensation if needed. The larger your camera / lens is, the longer it will take to warm up. This is one time that good glass works against you – at least until the temperature equalizes. One more point: try not to change lenses under these conditions. If water condenses on your sensor, it can be hard to remove and may cause dust to adhere to the surface.
The harbor and fort (Castillo de San Marcos) also provide interesting detail for sunrise or sunset and landscapes in general.
A calm morning in the St. Augustine harbor: Clouds to the north over the Castillo de San Marcos and the quarter Moon above the Bridge of Lions add interesting detail to this image.
This photo and the next were both multi-shot panoramas made with the techniques I described last week. Images like the harbor scene can be tough to blend due to smooth gradients in the sky and water. Be sure you check carefully and correct any glitches.
Another thing about summer in Florida: We have awesome afternoon thunderstorms. Clouds add a lot of drama to photos, but the storms were so bad on two of the days I was there that I couldn’t go out for sunset. Plan accordingly.
St. Augustine Sunset behind the Castillo de San Marcos
On this evening at the fort, there was a large thunder-storm to the west. The sky wasn’t colorful at all until the sun moved down below the thunder head, resulting in these shadows and rays. One big advantage of sunset photography vs. sunrise is that you can wait to see what develops. At sunrise, you need to be in place extremely early to see all the variations happen.
I had a great time walking around the fort at sunset with my large tripod and big DSLR camera. Most people were oblivious and walked right through my photos (I don’t blame them – I don’t own the place). I’d wait for a clear spot in the traffic and make another exposure. Other folks stood next to me since they thought wherever someone with a big camera is has to be a good spot. At one point, a tour guide in a pirate costume leading a group of 20 or so people saw me and stopped his group from walking in front of me until I finished my exposure. It turned out he’s a photographer too.
I wanted to try a night photo of the lighthouse. I also wanted to capture the look of the beam coming out of the light. This turned out to be a tough assignment. The contrast range is huge and there’s a lot of glare from the lights in the scene.
St. Augustine Light Station
I ended up merging two exposures. The first one was long (f/4 @ 3 seconds) at a low ISO (400) to decrease noise. The slow shutter blurred the light beam, so I made a second exposure (ISO 3200, f/4 @ 0.4 seconds) and this stopped the beam enough to highlight it. The second exposure had some noise, but was fine with a bit of post processing before I blended the two manually in Photoshop. I made this photo about an hour before sunrise. It was dark and there was no one around. One of my contacts on Flickr commented that spooky things happen in this area. I’m glad I didn’t notice any when I was there.
Tom M. met me up there on one of the days and we spent several hours just walking around. There were many interesting scenes, and I never saw any two doors alike.
Red door #33
We were walking down one street and saw someone in the distance photographing this house with his iPhone. He was really working it, making multiple photos / compositions and was still there when we arrived several minutes later. We waited for him to finish and when he looked up and noticed us he asked what kind of cameras we had. It turned out he’s a photographer too and was there on vacation, but forgot his Nikon D3S DSLR. He said using the iPhone was “very liberating”. Photo hint 101: If someone’s taking a picture, look at what he’s photographing – it might be interesting. Photo hint 102: Don’t forget your camera.
A little later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this waiter zipping through traffic on the way to work. On a skate board. I managed to make a quick photo.
Morning commute – very eco-friendly
We also noticed this person reading on the bench. I really liked the symmetry of the columns and how they led my eye towards the subject. Tom posted a different composition that I think is really good too.
By the way, if you have Lightroom 5, try out the “Upright” settings in the Lens Corrections panel on photos like the one above. It does a great job squaring things up.
Like I said, there’s a tremendous amount of photo-ops in the area. I didn’t make it by the St. Augustine Alligator Farm on this visit, but from March to June, it’s one of the best places in Florida to photograph a variety of wild birds nesting in the rookery there. I also didn’t get to Fort Matanzas. It’s a little south of the city and makes a nice side excursion. The Nombre de Dios Mission in the northern part of the city has a beautiful chapel and grounds as well as a view into the harbor. And I’m sure that there are a great many more photo ops that I still have to discover in this beautiful place.
You can see these photos larger if you click on them and I have many others from St. Augustine in this set on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
First, an apology: It appears that a couple of the species names for birds we observed in the Dry Tortugas triggered some people’s spam filters. So if you’re an email subscriber and didn’t get the email with the Dry Tortugas post, please check your spam folder or click here to open it in your browser. Sorry about that. Although there’s not much I can do about it. And it is funny.
Second: Happy anniversary, blog! The first Central Florida Photo Ops post went up on May 7th, 2007 – 6 years and 270 posts ago. Thanks once again for all your encouragement. I enjoy writing the blog, but I don’t think it would have lasted this long if not for the occasional comments and questions from readers. Please keep them coming!
I’ve heard that Blowing Rocks Preserve in Jupiter Florida is an awesome landscape place under the right conditions. The morning we were there, the light was harsh and the weather wasn’t ideal to show off the rocks. I think studying the tides and winds (and some luck) are required to make the most of a visit to this place. Here’s one photo I came up with.
Blowing Rocks Preserve – Sand steps, Three sets, Two close, No return?
We stopped at Bill Baggs to look for a couple of birds that had been spotted there. We didn’t have much luck with the rare birds, although I enjoyed seeing the light house and this awesome lizard.
This Cuban Knight Anole was over a foot long, much larger than the anoles we see in Central Florida
We spent a day driving through the Everglades, stopping at each area along the main park road and side roads. It was very overcast, and I found it tough to compose landscapes. I’m sure there are some great spots that people more familiar with the area know about. I guess I need to go back and find them.
Brewing storm, Everglades National Park – A pine tree and grass reflect on the inches deep Everglades “river of grass”
We made it all the way to the end of the road in Flamingo. I was very excited to see a couple of American Crocodiles in the marina there. Only about 2000 of these remain in the wild. They look different and somehow even more menacing than the alligators we’re used to seeing in Central Florida.
We had tentative plans to find some night-time / star trail photography dark sites in the Everglades, but with the long days and cloudy weather, we never got to it (another reason to go back). While in the Everglades we saw Purple Martins (rooming with House Sparrows), Shinny cowbirds, Brown Cowbirds, Spotted Sandpipers, Red Headed Woodpeckers, Swallow Tail Kites, Red Shouldered Hawks, an Anhinga rookery, Black Vultures (that were eating rubber off of cars!), the American crocodiles, and of course Alligators, Turtles and many other common birds.
The place we were staying in Key Largo had a private beach and boat ramp, and we spent one sunset there. It was pretty – the rocks in the foreground look like a Japanese garden. So much so that I wonder if someone arranged them.
Gulf view from Key Largo at sunset
On our way home, we stopped at Brian Piccolo Park to see the Burrowing Owls. They were easy to find in their marked nests and fun to watch. We also saw a few Monk Parakeets there.
Brian Piccolo Park: Burrowing Owl guarding nest
Other wildlife seen on the trip included Loggerhead Shrikes, Ground Doves, Eurasian Collard Doves, White Headed Pigeons, a Great White Heron, Cardinals, a Northern Curly Tailed Lizard, and Iguanas.